Shaun Ellis admitted he really studied Floyd Mayweather's split-decision win over Oscar de la Hoya for the junior middleweight title, which he watched on pay-per-view over the weekend.
"I was going for Mayweather — he's an exciting boxer to watch," the defensive end said at the New York Jets' training complex this week. "He's got hand speed, footwork, quickness. He always stays focused during the fight. He's basically controlling the fight the whole time."
If Ellis sounded a little like a fight analyst, that's not a surprise. Teddy Atlas' recent work with the Jets in some of the fundamental skills of the sweet science is starting to rub off.
"Yeah, I did watch the fight a little differently," Ellis said. "I was sitting there saying, 'OK, that was a jab, a hook, a right.' You see it in a different way. It's like if somebody came here to watch us practice, sit in on our meetings, at the games they'd have a different insight."
Insight is one of the elements that head coach Eric Mangini and strength coach Sal Alosi want the Jets to acquire during their once-a-week sessions with Atlas, the renowned boxing trainer and commentator.
"When we looked at the off-season program, there were a lot of different, innovative things we wanted to do," Mangini said. "Sal's been great about incorporating new ideas into the workouts that we're doing here in the spring. Boxing will have a lot of carryover in terms of the footwork, hand placement, power angles and conditioning. All those things, I think, have real value."
"There are obvious similarities between the two sports. Players are often in situations where they need to combine their mental and physical skills to prevail. We want to improve the skill sets of the players by working on specific boxing technique.
Atlas' 75-minute Monday sessions are optional, but some 20 players have been participating either before or after that day's workouts in Alosi's weightroom. They head from there outside to the practice bubble, which has taken on some of the ambience of Kronk's Gym with a speed back in one corner, several heavy bags and a double-end bag in the other and a bin of red boxing gloves against the middle wall.
Each player sees the benefits of bobbing and weaving, jabbing and hooking, working the bags.
"I'm looking forward to it really helping me with my balance in pass sets and the power in my hands," OT Anthony Clement said.
WR Brad Smith also sees the training helping his balance and hands, plus his mental preparation, "staying calm when pressure is being applied."
Poise under pressure resonates with Ellis.
"In football you can get panicky. The mental part is being focused when your body's put under pressure. That's the same thing in boxing and football. If you can control your breathing and stay relaxed, you can see that your mind works a lot faster," said the "Big Katt," clicking his fingers once to punctuate his last sentence.
A bonus is that the Jets are enjoying spending time with this ring personality, who peppers his drills with 30 years of boxing aphorisms and occasionally will swat a player in the head to demonstrate the importance of not leaving oneself open after throwing a punch.
"That's what's making it great," Smith said. "The guy has trained boxing champions, and he understands the correlation to football, the one-on-one battles on the field."
"Everybody loves Teddy," Clement said. "He always has good stories that help you with everyday life."
Clement wears one of those Jets T-shirt that has a catchphrase on the back. It sounds as if it may have come from Atlas, although its original author was Sun Tzu in The Art of War: "Every battle is won before it is ever fought." The Jets are working hard on many fronts for the approaching season, and fight is one quality they figure to have in abundance.